Lately at EHD, we’ve been brainstorming a lot of beginner guides and formulas, and since I am in the midst of designing my apartment, I’ve found myself contemplating things like tools. Riveting, I know. But when you have things like painting, installing window treatments, and hanging art on the brain these things come up. So, I wanted to know what tools do I really need in my toolbox? And what tools should I invest in that will ultimately make my life easier in the long run? These are the important questions the current state of the world has me pondering. Hey, it had to happen sometime.
EHD is no stranger to a DIY project, but most of us don’t have expert knowledge or passionate feelings about the best tools out there (though I know Julie who has done many DIYs knows way more than me). So instead of wasting time researching and reading online reviews from strangers, I turned to an actual tool expert. My dad. He is a retired fireman and now a licensed general contractor and literally uses tools every single day. Even on the weekends you can find him in the backyard casually building a corn hole set or replastering something. If it’s a day that ends in Y, he is working with tools.
My dad has about one thousand tools in his garage, most of which the average person would never need. As I was interviewing him, I began picking up random tools and asking, “What about this? Do I need this??”. Most of the time, the answer was absolutely not. There are definitely more tools in the world that someone like me would even know what to do with, so we kept it simple. The following are the tools that are essential for the common homeowner, renter or even beginner DIYer. This is your Starter Tool Kit Guide. It’s “Tools For Dummies” (don’t worry – I am the dummy, not you). Let’s get started.
If your main use for tools is light home maintenance, hanging art and shelves, and other low lift and rental friendly projects these are your basic tool needs:
1. Hammer | 2. Screwdriver Hand Tool Set | 3. Kobalt Screwdriver | 4. Set of Nails | 5. Screw Kit | 6. Adjustable Wrench | 7. Magnetic Stud Finder | 8. 48-in I-beam Level | 9. 9 in. Torpedo Level | 10. Tape Measure | 11. Utility Knife
Hammer: Hammers are still relevant in 2020. I know this for sure because I asked my dad if you still need a hammer if you have a power drill and he was shocked (and perhaps offended) why I would ask such a question. Apparently, hammers are and forever will be a tool kit staple. Noted!
Screwdriver Set: Screws come in all shapes and sizes so a single screwdriver won’t work for every project. Something like #2 is great because it comes with different sized Phillips and flathead screwdrivers and a slim case that would be easy to store. #3 is also very cool because the different size Phillips heads are stored in the base of the screwdriver so you won’t ever lose them, and all you have to do is pop on the correct size head onto the handle. My dad has this and was very thrilled to show me its capabilities. It’s a really good option if you don’t have a lot of storage space as it could easily fit into a drawer. Emily’s brother Ken is also a fan of the multi-use tool and this 11 in 1 screwdriver is his favorite tool. She said that he raves about it so you know it’s a winner.
Nail & Screw Set: You never want to run out of nails or screws in the middle of a project. I am always so relieved knowing I have way more nails and screws than I could ever find a use for. It just puts me at ease.
Adjustable Wrench: Again, if you don’t have a lot of storage for tools, an adjustable wrench like this one is a good place to start and it saves on space.
Stud finder: In the midst of interviewing my dad, I overheard my mom in the background, “Who couldn’t use a STUD finder am I right??”. Okay mom, calm down. But bad pun aside, she’s actually right! If you plan on drilling into your walls whatsoever you gotta know where those studs are.
I learned from my dad that usually, studs are about 16 inches apart. There won’t always be a stud where you need it, so you can hang very light things using a drywall screw. Or, if you need to hang something heavier, you can use a screw anchor that will provide more stability.
Here are instructions straight from Mr. Miller himself:
Using your drill and a drill bit, make a hole that is slightly smaller than the size of the anchor. Put the anchor in the hole and hammer it in until the anchor is flush (inline) with the wall. Then proceed to screw the proper sized screw into the anchor. Sorry for the number of times I just had to write “screw”.
Level: I am definitely guilty of just “eyeing it” and thinking something is “good enough”. But there’s really no need for that. For small projects, this level has great reviews and has a magnetic edge for hands-free work, and this is good for leveling cabinets or larger objects and even has measurements printed on the side.
Tape Measure: Having a good tape measure is peak adulthood. I use mine constantly and it’s one of those things every home needs. I advise investing in a couple because when measuring out furniture it can be nice to use two at a time. I also misplace mine a lot, so an extra set never hurts:). This tape measure has tons of great reviews and is your classic, straightforward tape measure that will get the job done. But if you want something a little fancy, this tape measure has the fractions printed on it. No need to use your brain again!
Utility Knife: I never realized how much a knife comes in handy until I bought one for my boyfriend for Christmas one year. Now that I know he has one on him, I regularly find myself needing to use it. It’s just nice to NOT use kitchen knives for home improvement because that’s gross.
All in One Kits: Of course, a lot of these starter tools can be found in tool kits which can save you the hassle of having to “build” your own tool set up. My boyfriend and I have this one that has come in handy countless times, but this and this are great options as well.
According to my dad (and dad’s everywhere), everyone should have a cordless hand drill in their tool kit. That’s tools 101. Some people can probably stop there and take it slow with other power tools. Myself included. I have zero use for a power saw and don’t see that changing anytime soon. But I know a lot of you are wanting to dabble in building and are DIYers so you’ll need more toys than me.
1. Cordless 1/2 in. Drill/Driver Kit | 2. Black Oxide Drill and Drive Kit | 3. Hole Dozer General Purpose Bi-Metal Hole Saw Set | 4. Worm Drive Circular Saw | 5. M18 FUEL 18-Volt Lithium-Ion Brushless Cordless Combo Kit
Cordless Hand Drill: Both mine and Jess’ dad recommend this drill. That’s 2 out of 2 dad’s! We like those odds.
My dad has been using this Ryobi drill for over 10 years. He also used this one for over 10 years and then gave it to me when I moved into my first apartment and it’s still kicking. You can splurge on a Dewalt, but the cheaper options like Ryobi and Black and Decker are super reliable in his experience.
Circular Saw: This is a saw that Jess’ dad uses and loves. If you cut a lot of lumber a good option is worm drive power saw like this one. It is easier to handle than your typical circular saw and a very good investment if you think you would get a lot of use out of it. Just make sure you have the proper experience with saws and use protective goggles. But if you are wanting something a little cheaper this guy is a good one too.
Hole Saw Kits: Jess’ dad also uses hole saw kits and says they always good to have for home projects. You’d be surprised how often you use them. Just check to make sure you buy ones that are compatible with your drill bit.
Cordless Power Tool Combo Kit: This is a great beginner power tool kit that is recommended by Emily’s brother Ken. It comes with two hand drills and a hand saw and batteries. If you are going to go cordless with your power tools, make sure to buy the same brand so you can use the same batteries and charger.
Painting a room is no one’s favorite task (why is it the most exhausting thing ever??) but it’s something we all have to do once in our lives. It also happens to be the easiest renter hack we can think of so we’re all big fans of painting around here. If you have a paint project coming up here’s what you’ll need:
1. 5 Gallon Bucket | 2. 5 gal. Steel Paint Can Grid | 3. 12 in. 5-Wire Professional Frame | 4. Shed Resistant White Woven Paint Roller Cover | 5. Easy Reach 5 ft. Adjustable Extension Pole | 6. DryDex 32-oz White Spackling | 7. 3 in. Bent Extendable Scraper | 8. Frog Tape
5 Gallon Bucket: My dad prefers using a bucket for paint jobs because it can hold more paint but you can also use a tray like this if you are painting a smaller space.
Bucket Grid: If you do use a bucket, you’ll need a grid to roll the paint off so it doesn’t drip all over and cause streaks.
Roller Frame: A handheld roller frame is good for touching up or painting a small space like a closet, and you can buy an extended handle for painting an entire room.
Rollers Covers: My dad always keeps a back of extra rollers around just in case a paint job comes up (aka just in case my mom decides a room should be painted from white to a “subtle off white”).
Spackling: If you are repainting you might have holes from previous hangings in the wall, so you’ll need some spackling to cover those right up. Just apply a little on a scraper tool and blend it into the wall.
Frog Tape: You’ll need painters tape to avoid getting paint on moulding or doors. Frog tape has good reviews, but we usually use Scotch painters tape.
Are your shopping carts filling up with tools??? I thought so. Now that you are envisioning DIYs and home improvements, you might be in the market for tool storage. I get it. Here are some great options for big and small spaces:
1. Deep Tool Chest Mobile Workbench in Gloss Black with Hardwood Top | 2. 3-Drawer Small Metal Portable Tool Box | 3. Leather Crafts Beech Tools Holder | 4. White Elfa Utility Board Starter Kit | 5. Canvas Tool Roll With Zipper Pouch | 6. Craftsman 26″ Wide 5-Drawer Standard-Duty Top Chest
Alright ladies and gents, we made it. Big thanks to my dad for talking to me for hours about tools and letting me ask the stupid questions. Now, I want to hear from you. Do you have any favorite tools or brands??? Let’s talk shop.
Opener Image Credit: Photo by Sara Ligorria-Tramp | From: MOTO Reveal: Emily Bowser’s Bedroom “After” is Unrecognizable from the “Before”
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